*Resurgence in Germany Foreign Policy
BY SHASHI MALLA
After suddenly axing the proposed US-North Korea summit, US President Donald Trump said last Saturday he was (now) still looking at a June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. “We’re doing very well in terms of the summit with North Korea,” he said at the White House, “It’s moving along nicely. So we’re looking at June 12th in Singapore. That hasn’t changed. So we’ll see what happens.”
Only on Thursday morning last week, he had called off the upcoming US-North Korea summit, catching much of official Washington – the “swamp” in Trump-speak – and indeed the world (including Moon who had just wrapped up an official visit to bolster Trump), by complete surprise. His personal letter to Kim offers revealing insight at Trump-style diplomacy and what might happen next. The BBC has carefully analyzed Trump’s personal letter to the North Korean leader, revealing nuggets of revelation into Trump’s mind-set [even others were also involved in composing it]. The missive from Donald Trump is addressed to “His Excellency”, a most unusual and inappropriate [and un-American] title for Kim [where “Mr Chairman” alone would have done very nicely] and begins more like a business form letter, thanking the North Korean leader for his “time, patience and effort”. There’s a touch of a passive-aggressive taunt at Kim – pointing out that he was the one who wanted the meeting, even if that’s “totally irrelevant” [which actually isn’t] – and an emphasis that this was a “long-planned meeting” [the idea was actually first suggested in March this year and a date and time set just weeks ago] – all at the behest of South Korean President Moon.
The real substance of the letter comes at the end of the paragraph, however, as the president’s language turns vindictive and venomous: “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.” Just hours before this termination notice, the North Koreans had announced that they had collapsed the tunnels at their nuclear test site. But they accompanied it with threats of nuclear war having been greatly angered by National Security Adviser John Bolton’s and Vice-President Mike Pence’s loose talk of the “Libya model” being applied to North Korea. The demeaning jibe at Pence, referred to as “a political dummy” seems to have been the cause célèbre for cancelling the summit. After all, Trump has shown time and time
again that he won’t tolerate verbal attacks from the North Koreans – or from others for that matter.
Trump, the megalomaniac and narcissist, responds to the North Koreans’ nuclear saber-rattling with another round of “Fire and Fury” style language, boasting about the massive and powerful US nuclear arsenal that he, Donald Trump, prays to God will never be used. It’s a return to the poisonous rhetoric of last summer, when it appeared the US and North Korea were headed toward a military confrontation. The start of the letter may have been couched in diplomatic language, but Trump’s true voice came through later. He again reverts to diplomatic-speak emphasizing the recent thaw between the two countries – a “wonderful dialogue” – and a hint that the door has not been fully slammed shut.
Trump writes that he is still looking forward to meeting the North Korean strongman [nuclear apocalypse notwithstanding]. And releasing three American prisoners (of Korean descent and one of whom had been sentenced to forced labour in a sham trial), was a much appreciated “beautiful gesture”. This smacks more of a groveling attitude than turning on the ‘charm offensive’ at an inappropriate occasion. He returns to the business letter template, albeit with somewhat tortured prose and ends on a wistful note: “The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.” At the back of his mind was definitely the commemorative coin that had already been struck and also his (presumptuous) nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize [!]
But it is South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in who is doggedly pursuing shuttle diplomacy and keeping alive the high hopes for détente on the Korean Peninsula. Moon had returned to Seoul last Thursday after meeting Trump in Washington in a bid to keep the high-stakes US-North Korea summit on track. In a surprise second meeting with Kim on Saturday on the North Korean side of the DMZ, Moon said he delivered Trump’s “firm will” to end the hostile relationship with North Korea and pursue bilateral economic cooperation. Kim himself reaffirmed his commitment to “complete’ denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the planned meeting with US president Trump. There are hints that Moon may join the bilateral summit, making it a triumvirate, which would be decidedly welcome, given his calming effect on both Trump and Kim – contributing singularly to an atmosphere of tranquility.
Resurgence in German Foreign Policy
According to “Bloomberg L.P.”, New York, it is getting more difficult for German Chancellor (equivalent to prime minister or executive head of government) Angela Merkel and the German political elite in general to hold back growing anti-Americanism in the country. Right
from the start, Germans have never liked US President Donald Trump and the backlash against his personal behavior and his foreign policy actions is stronger than ever after he exited the US out of the Iran nuclear deal recently. His “America First” policy grates the German public very much. The Germans are very much environment conscious, and his pulling out of the Paris climate accord was especially badly received. His critique of the rules-based international system, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and above all the European Union (EU), in which Germany plays a leading role, has been registered very negatively. The US news site notes a growing gap between the German establishment and German voters: “The former may be anti-Trump, but the latter are increasingly anti-American.”
Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, now in her final fourth term and formerly proclaimed one of the most powerful world personalities, vented her frustration with Trump in a speech to party delegates in the North Rhine-Westphalia city of Muenster, saying his Iran decision “undermines trust in the international order . . . If everybody does just what they want, that’s bad news for the world.” This outburst coincided with one of the most indelicate magazine covers Germany’s highly respected news weekly “Der Spiegel” ever published : an outstretched middle finger bearing Trump’s likeness, with the English caption, “Goodbye Europe!” [The American ‘Rockefeller Gesture’ with the middle finger raised is an obscene sign of contempt, and not to be confused with our own great ‘Prithvi Narayan Shah Gesture’ with the index finger raised – calling upon his countrymen (and -women) to remain united in a garden of many different flowers, and to cultivate amicable relations with both the Celestial Emperor and the Emperor of the Seven Seas ].
“Der Spiegel’s” editorial: “Trump deals painful blow to trans-Atlantic ties” which accompanied this image called on Europe to join the anti-Trump resistance:
“The West as we once knew it no longer exists. Our relationship to the United States cannot currently be called a friendship and can hardly be referred to as a partnership. President Trump has adopted a tone that ignores 70 years of trust. He wants punitive tariffs and demands obedience. It is no longer a question as to whether Germany and Europe will take part in foreign military interventions in Afghanistan or Iraq. It is now about whether trans-Atlantic cooperation on – economic, foreign and security policy even exists anymore. The answer: No.”
Germany’s new foreign minister, the Social Democrat Heiko Maas in Merkel’s Grand Coalition, experienced a rude awakening during his recent inaugural visit to Washington. Still, as a realist he appreciates the importance of continuing strong trans-Atlantic ties. In addition, he favors an active, strongly European and anti-populist policy. According to Anna Sauerbrey, an editor at “Der Tagesspiegel” (Berlin) writing in “The New York Times”, Maas will, in time, insist on Germany getting a place at the high table alongside the United States, UK, France, China and Russia. This will also eventually entail a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. He is expected to pursue a more forceful foreign policy in Germany’s interests within the perimeters of the European Union and in close cooperation with France. After decades of punching below its weight, Germany will have to take on additional responsibilities in the international arena and act as a major de facto power in international relations.
The columnist can be reached at: [email protected]